Caramel Through and Through: Black Tea Blondies with Caramel Swirl

I don't type out recipes in my blog (I mean, I'm an attorney, so there is that whole copyright thing), but I do try to link to websites that have reprinted recipes with the author's permission. Sometimes the recipes are reprinted in very random places. When I made Benjamina Ebuehi's Lemon, Ricotta, and Thyme Mini-Loaves, I found a copy of the recipe printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But that find included a real bonus, because the Star Tribune printed several other recipes alongside it, including one for "Black Tea Blondies with Caramel Swirl" from from Tartine: A Classic Revisited. I still had some Earl Grey tea leftover after making Yossy Arefi's Chewy Earl Grey Sugar Cookies and the idea of combining tea and caramel seemed so intriguing, so I had to give the recipe a try. (And while I own the first Tartine cookbook, I don't own the Revisited one, so I wouldn't have come across this recipe otherwise.)

First I made the caramel sauce. You cook sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt until the mixture is amber; add a mixture of warm cream and vanilla bean seeds; whisk until smooth; add lemon juice; let the caramel cool briefly; and add butter. The blondie batter is simple. You combine melted butter with brown sugar, vanilla, and salt; add eggs one at a time; and mix in flour and ground Earl Grey tea leaves. The recipe says you should pour the blondie batter into a buttered glass baking dish, but I never bake in glass, so I used a parchment-lined 9-inch by 13-inch metal pan instead. 
As I drizzled the caramel sauce on top of the batter I started to wonder if something was going terribly wrong. There is a photo of these bars in Imbibe magazine, and you can see small swirls of caramel neatly marbled into the blondie batter. I seemed to have way too much caramel. I debated what to do. The recipe doesn't say anything about reserving any of the caramel sauce to use later, so I assumed that I should use all of it. I used it all, but then I ended up with what was essentially a thin layer of caramel covering the entire top surface of the blondie batter. I tried to marble the caramel and batter together with a knife, but I still ended up with mostly just caramel on top. I crossed my fingers and put the pan in the oven.
When I took the bars out of the oven, they looked absolutely nothing like the Imbibe magazine photo. There was caramel bubbling up all around the edges and when the blondies were cooled and I took them out of the pan, I discovered that a good amount of caramel had migrated to the bottom (see photo below of the the underside of a slice). Thank goodness I had lined the pan with parchment, or I never would have been able to get the bars out intact. I think I definitely screwed something up somewhere, but regardless, the end result was absolutely delicious.

I could taste a bit of bergamot in these bars, but I think the tea flavor came across as something unusual but unidentifiable to my tasters. No one could tell they were made with black tea, much less Earl Grey specifically. But the chewy caramel bar was a hit. My experience with this recipe reminded me a lot of what happened when I made Mike Johnson's Espresso Caramelitas, where I similarly had a surfeit of caramel that sank to the bottom of the bars. And while I'm convinced something went wrong with both recipes, I thoroughly enjoyed my results with that recipe and this one. 
A colleague (who loved the bars but had guessed that the bars were made with ginger, not black tea) asked me for the recipe so that she could make it for a cookie exchange. She had some trouble with the recipe and sent me a message afterwards that said in part: "I believe this recipe was developed by the big guy. Meaning Satan." (Emphasis in original.) On a more upbeat note, my friend's aunt (who had stashed her bars in the freezer) wrote a very kind note after I told her that the bars she was raving about were made with Earl Grey: "Earl Grey and caramel, genius, in 80 years on this earth I have never tasted the like. I will limit myself to one bite per day until it's gone."
Recipe: "Black Tea Blondies with Caramel Swirl" from Tartine: A Classic Revisited, by Elisabeth 
Prueitt and and Chad Robertson, recipe available here from Imbibe magazine (without ingredient weights) or here from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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Louise said…
I own a couple Tartine books too, but not this one and this recipe caught my eye too. I had looked at the photo in Impose when I first saw the Blondies recipe. The recipe says the caramel will keep up to a month, so I think only a small amount is intended for the Blondies as a "swirl". I'm guessing that there are other recipe in the book that also use this caramel. I also noticed that the Blondies in the Impose photo were baked in a metal pan lined with parchment, pretty much like I will do.

Another recipe caught my eye -- "Lemon Angel Pie" from "Midwest Made", by Shauna Sever.
Using only a small amount of the caramel makes a lot more sense -- I just wish the folks who reprinted these recipes had mentioned that, lol! I'm not a pie person but I am intrigued by the idea of a meringue crust pie -- I may have to give the lemon angel pie a try!
Louise said…
I just looked at the recipe in Google ebooks of Tartine and it doesn't say anything about only using part of the caramel. I guess you are supposed to know that. How am I to know, I just follow the recipe.
Argh, poor proofreading/recipe testing. I agree, I of course assumed I should use all of the sauce since the recipe didn't say otherwise!
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